Since May is National Cancer Research Month, your Woodlands dentist thought it would be an excellent time to remind you about the importance of keeping up with your routine dental checkups and hygiene visits. Why? Because this is our chance to look for anything suspicious or changes to your oral health compared to your previous visits.
Understanding Oral Cancer
According to this recent report and experts at UT Health San Antonio, doctors are expected to diagnose about 55,000 patients with oral cancer across the country this year alone. Like other forms of the disease, oral cancer can spread fast, so early detection is vital. Unfortunately, oral cancer doesn’t discriminate, affecting people of all ages, genders, and races. It’s also important to note that smokers do tend to develop oral cancers at much higher rates compared to people who do not smoke. However, this doesn’t mean the rest of the population isn’t still at risk.
By visiting your dentist in The Woodlands at least twice a year, it’s more likely that we’ll be able to identify potentially cancerous lesions in their early stages of development. It’s important to know that most forms of oral cancer are treatable, especially if caught before displaying obvious signs. The best results occur when oral cancer is identified and treated during its early stages.
On the Lookout for Signs of Oral Cancer
If you or someone in your family is affected by oral cancer, it’s essential to identify what your next steps will be. Before we decide about your treatment options, we’ll be sure to complete a biopsy of anything suspicious we find in your mouth to determine whether it’s cancerous. It’s not possible to confirm an oral cancer diagnosis without a biopsy. Because of this, we like to remind patients not to make any assumptions until you’ve received a confirmed diagnosis from your dentist in The Woodlands. Understanding oral cancer means knowing about the common risk factors for developing the disease, such as:
- Age – Are you in your mid-40s? Your risk of developing oral cancer increases with age. A noticeable increase is evident in people in their 40s and older. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, most diagnosed cases occur around the age of 62, but the average age is declining.
- Gender – Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women. Part of this difference may be related to regular intake of alcohol and tobacco. The American Cancer Society says the gender difference is decreasing since more women are drinking and using tobacco today than in previous generations.
- Tobacco – Smoking or chewing tobacco can greatly increase your risk of developing oral cancer. Tobacco can lead to cancer of the mouth or throat. Additionally, oral tobacco products cause cancers associated with the cheeks, gums, and inner surface of the lips.
- Alcohol – Among those diagnosed with oral cancer, about 70% of people are characterized as heavy drinkers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heavy drinking is defined as having an average of two or more drinks per day for men and one or more drinks per day for women.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – This sexually transmitted disease is associated with at least 10,000 cases of oral cancer diagnosed each year in the United States. People with HPV-related oral cancers tend to be younger and are unlikely to smoke or drink.
- Sunlight – People who work outside or with prolonged exposure to sunlight have a higher risk of developing lip cancer. It is vital to use UV protection when under the sun. Many lip balms offer UV protection. If you work outdoors frequently, schedule an additional examination with our team.
- Diet – Poor nutrition can increase your risk of developing oral cancer. The American Dental Association reports have shown a link between diets low in fruits and vegetables and a higher risk for oral cancers.
Has it been more than six months since your last visit to our dental office in The Woodlands? If you’ve noticed some changes in and around your mouth, call us to schedule your oral cancer screening and cleaning. Seeing us provides you with the first line of defense against oral cancers and ensures you’re healthy.
Dr. Robert Dernick (General, Cosmetic, Implant Dentistry, and TMJ)
Dr. Mike Freeman (General, Cosmetic, Implant, Sleep Apnea, and TMJ)
Dr. Alisa Reed (General, Cosmetic, Implant, Laser, Sleep Apnea, and TMJ)
Dr. Wade Williams (Orthodontics)
Dr. Nikita Vakil (General, Cosmetic, Implant Dentistry)
Dr. Leslie Blackburn (Pediatric Dentistry)